Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Pittenweem Pumpkin Challenge

Last year, I caught the pumpkin carving bug.

I carved seven pumpkins, five of which worked out quite well and two made good pumpkin soup. Four of my pumpkins through photographs or photoshop worked their way onto RedBubble.

To up the excitement for 2019, I set myself the challenge of trying to carve a pumpkin a day for the whole of October. This may fall flat on its face right from day one, as it was two weeks into October last year before I even managed to get my hands on a pumpkin. So I am also trying to grow pumpkins for the first time this year, and they have taken over the entire back garden.

I also hope you will join me by setting yourself a target (from 1-31) and posting your creations on social media with the hashtag #PittenweemPumpkins2019. I will be posting my creations, both successes and flops here, and on twitter, instagram and facebook (@motiblackart).

And to get you in the mood, I have put together a bundle of RedBubble goodies from my shop for you to win. All you need to do is head over to facebook, like my facebook page, share the post, and comment on the original post something you would like to see me carve into a pumpkin in October. (Please keep it clean!)

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Moti Black: Exhibiting in Pittenweem 2019

Caiplie Caves, Moti Black, Watercolour

Well, this is all rather exciting: I will be exhibiting my artwork for the first time this year!

I have signed up for East Neuk Open Studios 22nd - 23rd June, and 29th - 30th June 2019, and Pittenweem Arts Festival August 3rd - 11th 2019. (Under the name Caroline Blackler).

Goldfinch, Moti Black, Watercolour

I have been focusing on creating some new paintings of birds and flowers form my garden. For East Neuk Open Studios, I will be focusing on bird paintings, and for the Arts Festival, flower paintings. 

Bass Rock, Moti Black, Watercolour

I have also been continuing with my 50 x Firth of Forth Scenes Range. I find them meditative to create and the images make fantastic cushions (I may have a few dotted around the house!)

Sunflower, Moti Black, Watercolour

There will be a mix of original art work (mostly watercolour), prints, greetings cards, cushion covers and bags for sale. I hope you will come and have a potter around my garage!

Also exhibiting in the same venue will be Jan Palmer www.janpalmerart.co.uk

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Pittenweem Pool and the West Braes Auction 2019

Pittenweem Pool, West Braes Auction Poster

On 12th January, 2019, The West Braes Project are holding an auction to raise money for the restoration of the Pittenweem Sea Bathing Pool. I said I would donate a painting, so my first task of 2019 was to paint a suitable image, and I chose to do the Pittenweem Pool

Using the same techniques as the 50 x Firth of Forth Scenes I have been working on, I deployed the masking tape and cling film, but with the addition of masking fluid under the cling to create gaps for the rocks to stand out against the sea effect.

Work in Progress, Pittenweem Pool with the masking fluid and cling still in place.

Oops, I was not expecting the cling to stick so fervently to the masking fluid! That certainly created an extra hurdle

The sea effect once the masking fluid and cling were removed.

Once I had the sea completes, I did a wash for the sky and started to paint the details of the rocks. I decided I wanted the concrete frame of the pool to stand out as a bright shape against the rest of the painting.

Adding the details to the Pittenweem Pool.

The image is 7.5 x 9.5 inches and the cream mount is cut to 11 x 14 inches. The item comes mounted, backed and wrapped in cellophane.

Pittenweem Pool, January 2019
Moti Black, Watercolour

If you want to bid on the original, you can contact the West Braes Project to make a bid (or turn up to the Auction on the day). However, be quick, it's only a couple of days away! For more details visit www.thewestbraes.co.uk. If you miss out on bidding on the original painting, this image has been uploaded to RedBubble.

Here is Lydia modelling the painting after making a full recovery from her misadventures over the festive period.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Winter Solstice: Hands of Helios

Happy winter solstice from Scotland!

It's been a bit of a sedate affair here, as I was up most of the night with a poorly Lydia, but I have been thinking about a song I wrote last year for The Casa Martyrs, and thought I would share it here.

The song is written by the character, Chris, about his search for his daughter. It features in chapter Eleven.

Hands of Helios

Has been taken from me.
Down the River of Acheron
And now she’s gone.

Barren is my land
And empty is my hand.
A winter that never ends
Has come.

The mistakes I make are mine to bear.
The lies they weave form my shroud.
I plant seeds, carry death underground,
Hoping Helios will tell me where.

My loss.
Like Demeter,
I’m on my knees.
My loss.
With my life, I would pay.
Raise your hand and show the way.

The sun rises on an empty space.
I close my eyes and see your face.
You’ll be here one day.
I will find a way:
Helios will show me a way,
A way.

Has chosen the earth.
So I plant seeds to bring on spring:
To prove my worth.

Fertile is my land,
But empty is my hand.
A daughter that can’t be found,
But on I search.

The mistakes you make are mine to heal.
The lies you hear will fall apart.
Saplings of love for the god of sun,
Hoping he will tell me where you’ve gone.

My loss.
Like Demeter,
I’m on my knees.
My loss.
With my life, I would pay.
Raise your hand and show the way.

Monday, 17 December 2018

50 x FFS

Back in August, I got another silly idea in my head. I decided to paint a picture of the Isle of May for a friend's birthday. I took three tubes of paint and a bit of clingfilm and created a pretty picture without that much hassle.

But then I got cold feet, thinking she may not like the painting, and got her something else.

Isle of May, Watercolour, Moti Black 2018

So I thought, well I could do one of Bass Rock and Berwick Law/Craig Leith and it would make a nice set to sell at the Pittenweem Festival, which I hope to exhibit at for the first time in 2019. It shouldn't be too hard.

WTF????? About 30 attempts later, I managed to get the sea right, but then I messed up the sky.


But, I am good a silly ideas and pig headedness, so I continued and finally I got a Bass Rock I kinda loved.

Bass Rock, Watercolour, Moti Black 2018

I'll admit getting a Berwick Law/Craig Leith that I am really happy with is still beyond my grasp, although I have a few contenders.

Berwick Law and Craig Leith, Watercolour, Moti Black,2018

But the project has now taken over. I have piles of sheets of paper all around my office with seas I love, all different, all with potential. Some I have created skies for: some fail, some are fantastic. And some I have started on land masses for, at which point, some end up in the recycling, and some make it through.

So there has been a lot of FFS! going on.

And that is where is where my mad brain comes in! Trying to think up a name for this project, I come up with Fifty Firth of Forth Scenes (from Fife). And so I shall continue until I have Fifty Firth of Forth Scenes (50 x FFS) all created using the same 3 tubes of paint (with a little extra titanium white where highlights are needed), but all with different lighting, clouds, birds, boats etc.

You can follow my progress over at Red Bubble where I will upload images I think may make the final cut (and a few which I like but won't count towards the final 50 for various reasons.)

Until then, Lyds is a bit busy getting ready for Christmas, so she has left it up to her little nephew Tops to show you how to keep warm this winter...

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Tarot Spread for a Writing Project

I entered the TABI pumpkin competition with the Pamela Colman Smith pumpkin from my last blog post and I won! The prize was a copy of the Darkwater Tarot by James Douglas, and the deck hasn’t even hit the shops yet! It is a stunning black and white deck, which Margo reviewed for the TABI blog here. So a huge thank you to James for donating the deck to TABI for the competition, and for everyone who voted for me and my Pixie on a Pumpkin :-)

Instead of writing another review of the deck, I thought I would create a spread to see how the deck works in action, and to have a challenging and honest look at my work on The Casa Martyrs.

The photos of the cards from the Darkwater Tarot deck aren't very good quality, but the cards themselves are! If you want to have a better look at the cards, please visit the Darkwater website.

1 – The Author: As the creator of this work of fiction, what role do I play? Am I truly committed to helping this work reach it’s potential, or do I have other motives, distractions or limitations?
Two of Cups: There are two hands reaching out towards each other at the top of this card. The first thought that came to mind was the divine spark in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Maybe my ego is reaching a bit there, but certainly, this is a good card to represent my commitment to The Casa Martyrs.

This has been a long-term project, which has been pushed to the background whilst I have taken on other commitments, sometimes for years at a time, but I have finally taken the steps to dedicate the time and energy required to see this through to the end.

The two cups in the card are of different sizes and remind me of how I feel about the projects I try to juggle. These days, I can only really concentrate on one thing at a time: I focus on the big cup in front of me, it spirals away, I hope I do a good job, but it is at the expense of the small cups in the background. Thankfully after a few years of culling the responsibilities which weren’t helping me maintain a balanced life, I am nearly at the position where I feel I have two cups (projects) on the go: my art and my writing. However, I am still either writing for a stretch of time, or I am painting, I can’t mix the two very well.

2 – The Characters: have I done justice to the characters in my writing? Could they be fuller, more believable, or do they have something else to say?

Maybe picking Justice reversed with other decks would say something different, but the second I saw the image of the Darkwater Tarot, I thought it could not be more apt. The Darkwater Tarot comes with the description “Rather than reverse a reading, the design and content of each card provides alternative pathways for the reader to discover.”

The title of the novel I am writing is The Casa Martyrs. On one level, “The Casa Martyrs” is just the name of a band, on another level it explores the notion of what ‘home’ (Casa) is, the sacrifices people will make for their perception of ‘home’, and the fallout when people force their views of home on other people, especially children, who are often held hostage to other people’s interpretations.

So, when Justice turns up, reversed, with a lop-sided picture saying ‘There’s no place like home’, it feels like my characters are telling me I have put them through the wringer by challenging their home lives, but I have also helped them learn more about themselves by letting them explore what home means to them, and what they will do to protect it.

In the Darkwater Tarot, there is a symbol of the tree of life on the Major and Court Cards. In the upright position, the leaves are at the top, reversed, the root system is uppermost.

In the Justice card, when it is reversed, the root system is under a bed. In Chapter One of The Casa Martyrs, The Protagonist, Kerella, finds herself in a dream:

Bending down by the bed, I reach under the valance, past those smiling yellow stars and into the more accurate representation of my childhood. Damp leaves stick to my hand. I pat the ground and sink my fingers into decomposing vegetation.

Kerella delves into the under-bed ecosystem (her subconscious) and rummages about in the roots, trying to drag out her demons to face. It is a harsh process of facing up to things that happened in the past, many of which were unjust, but she has to find a way to come to terms with them so she can play an active role in shaping the future.

The word ‘Difference’ is at the top of this card. In the Casa Martyrs, the three main characters have a presence in both the real world, and Kerella’s fantasy world. As they all have two separate upbringings and home lives, I get to play around with the environmental factors and see what character traits remain constant. For example, in her fantasy world, Kerella is brought up primarily in isolation, reading in a small room. In the real world, Kerella creates a different type of isolation and still reads a lot of books, despite having other opportunities available to her.

The Hebrew letter, Lamed, is in the top right-hand corner of the card, and the significance for the characters is the journey they will take over the course of the story. Chronologically, they start in a situation where strong but severe societal structures frame their relationships, but that is shaken up and they are sent down a difficult path which will challenge their sense of self and their view of each other. This leads them to a greater understanding of themselves and enable more genuine relationships to develop. As Lamed is often described as goading or prodding down a certain tricky path, as I am writing and proof reading, I will keep an eye out for where the characters’ development doesn’t flow quite as freely as I feel it should.

The symbol for Air is in the top left-hand corner. I have been really enjoying writing the dialogue between the characters, and as air can refer to communications, I hope this is the character’s telling me they have been enjoying the chatter just as much as me: they certainly like to take over and say things I wasn't expecting!

3 – The Plot: Does the story hold together well? Is there a good balance between detail and forward moving momentum? Are there any major plot holes? Is the story achieving what it set out to achieve?

Knight of Swords: Well, I was aiming for a fast-paced plot, but maybe the Air of Air is a bit too much, and certainly not sustainable for three books! It also runs the risk of floating off and not being grounded, alienating the readers. As the knight is wearing a helmet in the card in the upright position, I feel that if I go too quickly, the reader won’t get to see the real face of the characters.

Now my brain has gone off on a tangent, trying to work out which court card my favourite kind of plot would be. Probably the Knight of Wands, as I’d have the energy of fire combined with the momentum and communication of air.

There are two flowers at the top of the card, a black rose and a white lily. White Lilies often symbolise purity, and black roses have often been associated with danger and death. In terms of balance, I feel this is a good sign. There is also a plot theme running through my novel dealing with concepts of good and evil.

4 – The Words: How have I assembled the building blocks of my writing project? Have I used language effectively? Do I need to be aware of any bad habits I have developed?

Three of Pentacles: If you ever want the pedantry of pentacles and symbolism of a great project, this is the card!

The Darkwater Tarot has the symbol of a column in the top right-hand corner, signifying all the hard work, planning, skill and investment a successful project needs to reach fruition.

When I am writing, I like to consider myself as very deliberate in my choice of words and punctuation, as I believe these are as important to the tone of the story as the other facets of a writing project. However, there are three faces on this card, and the three of pentacles is the card of successful team work. Although I would never think of putting my work out there, self-published and untouched by a professional editor, I think this is a wake-up call that the final version will involve the input of professionals in the field who will know a lot more than me about the publishing market, and it may soon be time to recruit a willing friend or two to read through what I have written so far!

5 -The Audience: How will my intended audience react to my writing project? Does the project have any marketing potential?

The Moon: My initial reaction wasn’t very positive to considering my future readers as dogs howling at the moon, at night, when nothing is at it seems. I was making a cup of tea the next day when it hit me: this is a work of fiction that I am enthusiastic about. If other people wish to get as hyped as me about the story, I am not misleading them and just sharing the joy I have had over the years whilst I created the story.

The symbol of Pisces leads us to water, which coupled with the Moon, gives us the tides. This is telling me interest will wax and wane. When it is high tide, I have to be careful not to get carried away by the delusions of the moon, and when the tide is low, I need to remember that it will come back in, so not to get too disheartened.

Looking at the spread, one thing that stands out is the lack of fire and that might explain why I find moving forward so difficult at times. I decided a while back to finish the entire draft before sharing it with friends or approaching potential agents, but it makes for a very long dark tunnel and it is easy to switch back to art for a while, as I can show people what I am doing and bring in a few pennies to keep me going. This reminds me of a reading I did for a TABI blog post earlier this year which warned me the fiery nature of my art may distract from my writing! 

On which note, I am going to put my writing to one side for a while, as I have some arty commitments I have made which need to be finished this month. However, I still plan to finish chapter 14 by the end of the year.

Until then, Lydia is watching you, and she most likely does not approve!

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Pumpkin Carving 2018

People have been telling me all week that my pumpkin carvings are amazing and keep asking me how I do it. I have to admit, I am a bit shocked, as before this year, I had carved two pumpkins, both when I was much younger, and in the usual jagged smile and diamond eyes design. But I seem to have taken to pumpkin carving like a duck to water, despite actually being allergic to their innards, which make me itch like crazy!

So here are my initial observations on pumpkin carving and how I did what I did...

My first attempt (for the TABI pumpkin carving competition)

For this one, I wrapped masking tape around a kitchen knife blade and just cut straight through the pumpkin for the main design. I then took some wood carving tools and scraped the top layer off the pumpkin to create the mini highlights.

My second attempt was going to be a phoenix, but after drawing the phoenix out carefully, all the felt tip came off when I gutted the pumpkin and the result was, well, not very phoenixy...

I suppose you just have to go with where the pumpkin takes you, but at least I got three red bubble images out of this pumpkin! 

I did most of this with a kitchen knife, carving deeper for the light bits and keeping the skin for the dark lines.

Then I accidentally bought a third pumpkin. I told myself when I went to the supermarket I was not going to buy one, I have far too much to get done, I do not need this distraction. I need to finish writing chapter 13. I need to finish writing the whole novel. I need to paint some more stuff. Blah, blah, blah.

But I bought another pumpkin.

And I suddenly realised I had to carve Pamela Colman Smith into a pumpkin, even though a cat or a phoenix would be something I could put up on Red Bubble and maybe make 50p out of by Christmas...

I found that a craft knife was much better than a kitchen knife so most of this was done using a combination of a craft knife scalpel and the curved scraping tool from a moku hanga set.

It's probably a good thing that pumpkins are disappearing from the shops, as I have a huge list of things I now want to carve into pumpkins. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very good at coming up with plans that are completely bonkers, which probably explains the PCS pumpkin. But my current plan is next October, to carve a pumpkin a day for all 31 days.

Until then, I'll be heading back to writing, under Lydia's constant supervision.

If you wish to support a slightly bonkers author/artist, please feel free to have a look at my Red Bubble Shop